Survivor story: Hannah
A true story, put into words by Pax Wiemers
It’s always struck me as ironic that my family came to this country as African refugees in search of a better life – the American dream. None of us could have imagined the American horror story about to unfold. As a young teenager in search of acceptance, I would become the sex toy for a gang of fellow refugees. Our visions didn’t include me being prostituted for nearly eight years by my countrymen. No, my life was anything but a dream.
Trust me, little girls don’t want to grow up wanting to become prostitutes. I sure didn’t. But, I was betrayed. Coerced. Forced. Made to be that way. However you want to define it, I didn’t have a choice. That’s why I ran away. And that’s why I testified in a big trial of many of those gang members. I may not be able to undo the past, but at least I can choose my future.
During the trial I came to know several people with End Slavery Tennessee. I was very apprehensive at first because I felt like everyone was just out to use me. I was just a commodity. But they didn’t treat me that way, even though I was an absolute mess. Since I felt so alone, I had been abusing drugs and alcohol pretty hard and had racked up a not-so-little criminal record too. End Slavery never judged me though. They’ve gotten me the help I have needed in all phases of my life, even when I’ve doubted them.
Recently, a member of the gang was released, so End Slavery pulled a bunch of strings to get me moved quickly to a safe place. Not only was I at risk in this situation, but my baby boy was too. We’ve found refuge in this safe haven, but they’ve given me so much more as well. I’ve been going through their recovery program, stayed clean from drugs and booze, and have been seeing a counselor. We’ve been here several months now, and I’ve undergone a complete transformation. I feel I’ve become a new person – the one I was always intended to be. I love my boy and am so thankful he won’t grow up in an environment that turns boys into gang members who victimize girls like I was.
I don’t want to make it seem like it’s all roses though. There’s still a lot to be undone. End Slavery has been working to get my criminal record expunged, due to my status as a trafficking survivor. My record is threatening my U.S. visa as well, which also makes it hard to find me a job when I get out of this shelter. There are definitely many challenges ahead, not to mention the constant danger of being labeled a traitor or a snitch by my own people.
But one thing keeps me going. I’m not alone anymore. God gave me a beautiful son. I have friends who love me for who I am. And I have the most elusive of dreams now.
I have Hope.